Introduction: Strategies to reduce red blood transfusion utilization in cancer patients undergoing operation are needed. Hypothesis: Postoperative epoetin alfa (40,000 units subcutaneous on postoperative days 1 and 7) is associated with improved hematologic parameters in patients undergoing major abdominal surgery for malignancy.
Materials and Methods: Prospective, blinded, randomized trial of epoetin alfa (40,000 units subcutaneous on postoperative days 1 and 7) versus placebo in patients undergoing major abdominal operation for malignancy. Primary endpoints were immature reticulocyte fraction, reticulocyte count, and hemoglobin, which were measured on postoperative days 4, 7, and between 14 and 20. Secondary endpoints were transfusions and complications in the 2 groups.
Results: Forty patients were enrolled. There were no significant differences in immature reticulocyte fraction (P = 0.78), reticulocyte count (P = 0.42), or hemoglobin (0.35) in patients randomized to receive epoetin alfa versus placebo. There was no significant difference in red blood cell transfusion rate or postoperative complications in patients who received epoetin alfa compared with placebo.
Discussion: The use of postoperative epoetin alfa (40,000 units subcutaneous on postoperative days 1 and 7) in patients undergoing major operation for abdominal or pelvic malignancy is not supported by this randomized trial.